A March Amulet For You All

martisor_potcoava1_zpsa18d7635I am offering each of you a March amulet, according to the tradition in my country, to bring you good luck, happiness, love, good health and everything else you wish. Well, my wishes for you include inspired muses too.

The 1st of March is the traditional holiday of the March amulet, day when Romanians celebrate the coming of spring. In most parts of Romania, on this day girls and women receive “March amulets” from men. In some areas of Moldavia, there still exists the ancient custom that men receive also a “March amulet” from women. “March amulets” are bicolor (white and red) twisted braids to which various figurines are bound. They celebrate the rebirth of life after the hard winter.

The name ‘Martisor’ comes from the God Mars (Marte, in Romanian) which was celebrated in March (Martie). According to the Roman calendar, it was then when they celebrated the beginning of the year on those times. The amulet called Martisor became a traditional gift for the New Year’s Eve, which was supposed to bring luck and happiness. It has remained a March celebration even after the new calendar was adopted. Now it is a happy celebration of Spring which comes to brighten our days after so much snow and freeze.

“March amulets” bring happiness and luck and are worn at sight (pinned on the blouse or around the wrist) for one week, until the 9th of March. The March amulet is a Romanian tradition more than 8,000 years old, as the earliest proofs of this holiday discovered by archeologists showed.

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The pin-charm could only be made during the winter months and worn after March 1st. In earlier times, little silver coins were tied on a thin, twisted black and white or red and white wool rope. The coin charms were originally used to provide both luck for the future and protection from the environment to the wearer. The ropes stood for the advent of summer, warmth, and regeneration, while intertwined with the constant presence of winter, cold, and death. The amulets were also believed to enhance fertility, provide beauty and prevent sunburn in women. Young girls even threw the amulets toward the sun to prevent freckles. They were worn on the wrist or pinned over the heart. Many wore the pins until trees began to bloom, hanging the amulets in the tree branches after that point.

As in all traditional cultures, based on a dualist mentality, March was the time when the old and the new, the good and the evil confronted. For young people, it meant ritual games, gift-giving, and the well-known March amulets.These “tokens” of an old culture survived. We can find them in jewelry shops, sold by street vendors, everywhere, a sign of love, appreciation, respect, everybody is happy to receive.

In ancient times it was a silver or gold coin suspended on a white-and-red braided thread with a silk tassel. Red symbolizes love and white symbolizes purity. This tradition is also considered to welcome in Spring time – by uniting Winter (red) and Summer (white). Parents customarily tied around their children’s wrist, young men offered to young women, and young women used to exchange among themselves was believed to bring good luck, good health, “like pure silver, like the river stone, like the seashell”.

The March amulet is offered early morning on the first day of March; it used to be worn for 9-12 days, sometimes until the first tree would bloom when it was hung on a flowering branch to bring good luck to its bearer. The recipient used to wear it around his neck until he would see a blooming rose and the present was then placed on its branch; in this way Spring was poetically welcomed.

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This custom began as a magical gift meant for protection against evil spirits of the winter-ending. Even doors of homes and stables were knotted with white-red thread for protection! Now, family members, friends and sweethearts exchange symbolic pins – any jewelry or (more often) trinket, generally with symbols of spring (flowers, leafs, birds, ladybugs), good luck (four-leaf clover, horseshoe, chimney-sweeper), love (a couple kissing, a heart, etc.). Recipients wear the pins beginning March 1st for one to two weeks. If a person wears many March Amulets it shows they are held in very high esteem by friends and family. In this regard, the charms are also a status symbol.

In most places of Romania only females can receive amulets. (But I sent also to males abroad, when corresponding with them, to know how it is, and some liked them very much!)

In Moldavia (both the one still part of Romania and the Republic of Moldavia), all persons can receive a little March amulet – and mainly boys. In Bulgaria also everybody can receive a March amulet, but they have only the threads, without any trinkets. (The boy and girl made of red and white thread offered above is a Bulgarian [b][i]Martenitsa[/i][/b], as they call it!)

In Northern Greece, only children (both girls and boys) can receive it, and it remained a coin put at the wrist or at the neck by the thread.

I gave one to each of you! The ones who want to know the legends of March amulets please click on this link.

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In modern times, the pins lost their talisman properties and became symbols of love. The delicate silk or wool ropes are still a “cottage industry” among the country people today. They still comb out the wool, dye the floss, and twist it into thousands of tassels. But now students can make them too. Or some, unfortunately, are made in China the most recent years.

The March amulets can be made now of gold, silver, or any metal, but also of plastic, glass, cloth, shells or even feathers. Some have the form of an animal, bird, bug or cartoon characters, flowers etc. The most representative are the 4 leaf clover, the horseshoe and the chimney sweeper which are the symbols for luck. All the men and boys are giving these amulets to women and girls, not only the husbands or sons or lovers, but also bosses, colleagues from school or from work.

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